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Group Sex Meets Information Theory

A while ago, I got to wondering, as I sometimes do, exactly what makes an orgy. For example, if fifteen people are all in a room having sex, but only within existing partnerships, and there's no "extra-partner" sex happening, is it an orgy? If four people are all fucking each other, is that an orgy, or is it just a foursome?

As it turns out, the dictionary is of precious little assistance with answering questions like this. I consulted a number of different dictionaries, and got a number of different answers--one said an orgy is five or more people having sex, one said more than two, one said an event dominated by "excessive" sexual activity (whatever the hell that means), and so on.

Now, to me, three people having sex is a threesome; four people having sex is a foursome; it doesn't get to be an orgy until you've got five or more people.

But is a play party an orgy? Clearly not all orgies are play parties, but is a play party an orgy? What about a play party where people aren't having penetrative sex? How about a mutual masturbation event...is that an orgy? My impulse is to say "no;" it isn't an orgy unless there are five or more people and there's fucking going on, so mutual masturbation doesn't count. (Edit: There are many kinds of sexual activities that aren't penetrative sex that I would consider to be an orgy, so I'm still not quite sure exactly where the borderline for the definition of "orgy" is.)

From there it was a short intellectual hop to wondering how many different kinds of group sex there are1, and what the relationship between them is.

So I started working on a Venn diagram of group sex. Then I started enlisting the help of all the people around me.

Then I started realizing that some of the potential overlaps are complicated beyond what you might at first think. For example, not all swing parties include group sex, yet most folks would probably think of a swing party as a group sex event.

And it soon became clear that certain rules of geometry2 precluded doing this as a traditional Venn diagram, because it's not possible to show all the overlaps and exclusions with circles.

So the project got a little more complex.

Anyway, here's what I came up with: Where group sex intersects with information theory!

Some assumptions I've made for this chart:

1. An orgy must involve penetrative sex of some kind (including manual sex) but can not involve all the participants being sexual with one and only one person; a gang bang and an orgy are exclusive, non-overlapping sex.

2. An orgy can never bee a threesome or a foursome.

3. If penetrative sex happens, it is no longer a puppy pile; ergo, orgies and gang bangs exclude puppy piles.

I have the feeling I missed some categories of group sex, though, and I don't know how universal these assumptions are.

1 As opposed to how many different kinds of sexual activity you can have in a group sex situation, which is a completely different question altogether.

2 Specifically, group theory, about which I know less than what would fit in the white space of a postage stamp.


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 29th, 2009 07:45 am (UTC)
I was going to leave a different comment, but then realized you'd made it for me in your alt text...

Excellent work, my friend. ;P
Aug. 29th, 2009 07:50 am (UTC)
Nicely played! *snerk*
(no subject) - kindredsgirl - Aug. 29th, 2009 08:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - polymorphism - Aug. 30th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 29th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
Not fairy-tales - we once had a saying among my social circle, collectively referred to as The Freaks:

"I went to an orgy and a Freaks Party broke out"

Meaning, "orgies" (for some definition of them) happened spontaneously often enough to be jokingly synonymous with our social events in general.

Unfortunately, it *is* a joke, and they don't *actually* happen at every social event, but they have been known to happen.
(no subject) - tacit - Aug. 29th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 30th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 30th, 2009 08:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 31st, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
The focus on defining "sex" as "penetrative" seems odd to me. I'd assume this would exclude hand-jobs? Otherwise, it creates a baffling gender discrepancy that penis hand jobs don't qualify, but vaginal ones do :)
Aug. 29th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
And this brings up sexuality bias in defining orgies -- Like are lesbians having oral sex having an orgy, for instance?
(no subject) - tacit - Aug. 29th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
I've always defined an orgy the same way that I've defined any interaction that involves more than one person: mutual recognition.

Are person A and person B in a relationship? If both persons A and person B say they are, then they are. There may be disagreements when translating to people outside of the relationship (ie, people who say: you must have sex to be in a relationship, you must have a contract, you must have X, Y, or Z that persons A and B don't have), but they're still in a relationship for all practical purposes. Their definition may be different than mine, but I'm not part of person A and person B's relationship, so what the fuck does it matter?

However, once you request recognition from an outside source, then you have to accept their definition. Ex: I've always considered a commitment to be with a person until death to be marriage; hence, I agree that my half-brother and his permanent girlfriend are married, despite a lack of marriage certificate. However, according to the Commonwealth of Virginia, if they wish to claim certain tax benefits, than they must be married in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In this case, if all the parties involved sit down and say "We had an orgy last night", then they had an orgy last night.If they say "We had a gang-bang last night", then they had a gang-bang last night. If they say "We had an excellent knitting circle meeting last night", well... you get the idea.

The problem with that argument is that the self-determinate definition given by the people breaks down in translation without a definition of terms. If I had penetrative sex with three women and a man last night, and define myself to be a heterosexual monogamous person, you can argue that the socially constructed definition of my self-descriptors appears contrary to my actions, and that, if I wish to communicate clearly in a social setting, I should find new terms and/or describe exactly the angles within which I draw myself.

Verbose post is verbose. I'll go sleep now.
Aug. 29th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
ALSO, that graph is pretty goddamn awesome. Forgot to mention that.
Aug. 29th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC)
It's also interesting to consider the word's roots.
Aug. 29th, 2009 09:39 am (UTC)
Love the graph!

I tend to define "group sex" as anything more than 2 people, but 3 people is a threesome, 4 people is a foursome and 5+ is an "orgy". So I can have "group sex" but not an "orgy".

I do not classify a "gangbang" as an "orgy" because, in my head (and I may be incorrect about this) a gangbang is several people taking turns (or simultaneously) penetrating a single person. I also tend to imply some element of resistance, but I don't think it's *necessary* to fit under the category of "gangbang".

But an "orgy", in my head, requires more mutual activity and does not, necessarily, require penetration.

I was just talking tonight about how there needed to be some other word to distinguish between an "orgy" where there was cross-partnering (meaning most of the participants have sexual contact with at least one person other than their dyadic partner) and an "orgy" where it's simply a bunch of dyads in a single room fucking each other simultaneously.

In my head, the infamous Necro "orgy" counts as an orgy, even though it was almost exclusively pre-existing couples having a range of sexual activity almost coincidentally in the same room, not all of it penetrative. But when discussing my interest in participating in an "orgy", I'm specifically referring to an event where there may not be any clear set of dyads or, if there are, there is some cross-over with other participants.

I hesitate to require penetration being a defining element, because of gender/orientation issues. Although I often use the word "sex" as a shortcut for PIV, the word "sex" isn't actually limited to PIV in my head, and I often have to clarify which use of the word I'm using when I say it. But, for instance, I wouldn't rule out a lesbian orgy if there weren't any dildos present, and I've seen (and participated) in some activities that *could* be described as "fucking" but didn't include PIV.

I don't think of play parties as orgies, because I tend to think of play parties as being more focused on fetish activity and orgies as being more focused on just good ol' sex. The image in my head for a play party includes scene music, furniture, toys and gear - and not all that much fucking or penetration (whether we're talking penises, dildos, fingers, or what orifices), whereas "orgy" brings to mind piles of naked, sweaty bodies and not much in the region of toys, gear, pain, resistance, or dominance, even if some of that happens to trickle in here or there.
Aug. 29th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)
But an "orgy", in my head, requires more mutual activity and does not, necessarily, require penetration.

Using "penetration" as a criteria is problematic, but I've been struggling to come up with alternate phrasing. I think it might be impossible to come up with something because it boils down to personal, and possibly situational definitions of sex. I can certainly imagine an orgy where no one takes their clothes off at all. Whether something is "sex" can often depend on the subjective arousal of the participants. If someone gives you 10 orgasms and you never take your pants off.. well, it certainly sounds very sex-like. But at the same time, you could be totally naked but only casually aroused, in which case I wouldn't feel much like I'd been participating in sex.

So, I think it's impossible to come up with satisfactory phrasing, but probably "genital stimulation," would be better than "penetration."
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 29th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pstscrpt - Aug. 30th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 30th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
I've never seen such a complicated venn diagram.. I think you did a good job trying to make the intersections clear. I've been pondering about other options for expressing the same information and not coming up with anything obvious.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 29th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
And the wine!

Or is that then an orgy subset referred to as Bacchanalian... so complicated!
(no subject) - tacit - Aug. 29th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
Aside from my not considering penetrative sex necessary, that all looks very good!
Aug. 29th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think I'm with you on the penetrative sex, come to think of it.
Aug. 29th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
I am a little confused about what "Daisy Chain" means. I've always heard it used to refer to when a bunch of people at a party sit down sort of in a line and give the person in front of you a back rub. Clearly this definition isn't what you mean, or it would be outside the circle with the "Puppy Piles."
Aug. 29th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think I have to pipe in on the confusion front. Could you give quick definitions for each of the terms you use, Franklin?
(no subject) - fangirl715 - Aug. 29th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 29th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gipsieee - Aug. 29th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Aug. 29th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Aug. 29th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Let the Circles Be Unbroken! - peristaltor - Aug. 30th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Let the Circles Be Unbroken! - isaacsapphire - Aug. 30th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Let the Circles Be Unbroken! - peristaltor - Aug. 30th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fin9901 - Aug. 31st, 2009 03:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Please stop what you are doing and go to work for the Obama administration. Our troubles will be over in no time.
Aug. 29th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
I'd love to share this with my f-list. May I? Pretty please... :)
Aug. 29th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! :)
Aug. 29th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
You made me google Key Party, and I was half afraid before hitting search all the results would reference gpg.
Aug. 30th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Key parties were actually discussed last year on network television on a wonderful, short-lived, little show called "Swingtown." If you haven't seen it, go look it up. It was well written and thoughtful and really good -- too good for mainstream America.
Key parties and the Whos - fin9901 - Aug. 31st, 2009 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - joreth - Aug. 31st, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
Aug. 30th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
Hell, T-shirt? B)
(no subject) - sylvar - Aug. 30th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kinzokutaka - Aug. 31st, 2009 12:59 am (UTC) - Expand
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( 49 comments — Leave a comment )